Fiction and film aretwo sources of entertainment apart from being products of creative minds. Bothof the artistic forms have a great impact on public.
It’s through them theideas get flourished and spread. When fiction garners our attention through thewords, film gives a visual pleasure. More than that, both film and fictioncontribute to each other through adaptation. “Adaptation has been defined asthe act of producing a work of act by adapting elements from another work ofart”. There are many novels and literary works which has been translated intofilms and vice-versa. Film adaptation of novels has becomepopular nowadays.
Besides providing a materialized and visualized form to theaudience of a novel, they could really see what they have imagined. Also movieincludes sound and music which add up the effect of the situation which issimply narrated in the novel. But majority consider that cinematography ofnovels is not good enough as they are concerned more about the fidelity to thenovel. The film has time constrains which is ample in novels. Fiction can be ofany length. So when a novel is converted to a movie, it undergoes alteration.It deletes many less significant parts and characters.
Many adaptation movies havebecome disasters in the past when it failed to convince the audience. But thesepaucities never diminish an adapted movie’s value because film reaches in theevery sections of the society, even the illiterates which adds to the fame ofthe novel. The Pulitzer Prize won novel The Color Purple (1982) by Alice Walkergot an adapted movie version through thehands of Steven Spielberg in 1985.The epistolary novel is about thetransformation of a naïve and fragile African American women Celie who hadundergone several struggles, into a strong and independent women. Itproblematizes gender, religion, race and the colonization. The film which hitthe screen shortly after the publication created an immediate impact. It wasnominated for eleven Oscars which shows the popularity of the film. When the tragic story of black women isnarrated, one by a black woman (novel) and its film adaptation by a white,naturally the credibility will favour the former.
The same happened in the caseof the novel The Color Purple and itsfilm adaptation. There were a lot of criticisms both positive and negativeraised against the movie. Though there is a lack of synchrony between the movieand the fiction, not one dominates the other. Both have its own merits anddemerits if we analyse it closely.
While comparing them, we get to know anumber of incidents in the novel reworked in the movie. The main accusation towards the movie isthat, it only focuses on the gender inequality among black people. It failed increating a considerable impression on racism, colonialism, religion which iswell described in the novel. Acknowledging the time limit and space, the filmcould only share the gist of the novel.
It’sthrough Celie’s eyes reader gets acquainted with her life. Again the Olinkanexpedition is through Nettie’s letters. On the other hand, the film puts thecamera as a third eye. Hence the events and plots are given mere priorities inthe movie version than the thoughts and interpretations through which the novelprogresses, Also the film is made mainlyconsidering the American white as the audience. So the making of the filmitself was affected by controversies, mainly regarding the portrayal ofdominating black men and lesbianism.
As a result, the film hardly representedhomosexuality and over emphasized the dominant behaviour of black men. Alongthat, the film only represented other character as catalysts for thedevelopment of Celie while in the novel, we can see the changes happening ineach character in due time. Letterwriting is the method chosen by Walker to express the inner tantrums of Celie.The epistolary form itself has got an important role in the novel. The onlymode left for the black oppressed domestic women to express themselves nonchalantlyis through letter writing, but the film though fails in revealing it .Besidesthe self-judgement and personal dilemma of Celie is only given a little spacein the film which is on the other hand dominates the novel.
In Celie’sfirst letter to god she writes “I am I have always been a good girl”.The correction displays her feelings of guilt and shame as well as herinnocence. The language in the novel well explained it. Also at the beginning,her diary entries are confessions to God. But the film does not focus on God;instead it opens to a broader audience. Later in the novel, the shift of the addresseehappens from God to Nettie. Through the interventions of Shug and Nettie inCelie’s life, create a new insights on the idea of God . This broadening of herspiritual thinking is nearly absent in the movie.
The depiction of black man in thefilm is the much debated topic. When the novel exhibits a group of ignorantblack man who were also the victim of patriarchy, the film pictures more funnyand thoughtless black men, especially through Mr.__ and Harpo. In the novel, atthe end, Albert realizes the value of self-respect for every women and theregrows a friendship between he and Celie. But in the movie after Celie left Mr__, she never speaks to him again though he financially assist Nettie and familyto return back to U.
S. The reunion of Harpo and Sofia also disappoints thereader of The Colour Purple,as thereis no affection between them in the latter part of the film. Throughout the movie Albert andHarpo remains unchanged. There is no transition happening in the approach andpersonality of Mr.
__. The stubbornness and the unwillingness to change in Mr.__ in the film thus create a negativeimpact of black man among the mass audience. Regarding Harpo, Barbara Christiancommented that “In the book he couldn’t become the patriarch that societydemanded that he become. Because the film cannot depict a man uncomfortablewith the requirements of patriarchy, Harpo is made into a buffoon”(M.D). Thuswe lack the liberal Harpo who in a way consider the self-respect of his wife inthe film. Meanwhile he is a comic character in the movie who is unable torepair his roof and falls.
Also he is the one who is meant to obey his wife. Heis always made to look after his babies. Because of the fear towards his wife,he unwillingly takes her orders. The manipulation of characters not only constraints to Mr.__ andHarpo, even certain female characters are reconstructed. The strong willed Sofiawith masculine powers is evolved into just a humorous character in the film. It’sthrough Sofia, in the book Celie’s notion about the relationship betweenhusband and wife gets redefined. Sofia, the most tragic character in the novelis the victim of white dominance.
She is punished unnecessarily to serve the whitemayor and his family for almost eleven years and six months. This potency ofher character is not found in the film. According to Michele Wallace, the representationof Sofia and Harpo is a series of “white patriarchal interventions”(M.D.).
Again the Shug Avery we knew from thebook, the bold and beautiful young lady who embrace her freedom to life,freedom from patriarchy, especially is missing in the film. The Shug in thefilm has been reduced to a comparatively stronger lady than other black womenwho is still affected by male centered norms and conventions of society. The rebelliousShug is given a preacher father in the film which is not in the book. The preacheralways campaigns against the radical lifestyle of Shug. On the other hand, allalong the movie, Shug tries to please her father. Even she is marrying Grady toappease her father.
The reconciliation with her father at the latter part ofthe film emphasizes the need of a well- settled Shug Avery. But her marriagewith the much younger Germaine in the book is missing from the film. TheShug Avery who lives only for herself is converted to a blue singer, anindependent women, yet confining to the notion of a family and the so calledsettled individual. Though we miss certain staunchwomen in the film, it’s focuses on black women created an impact on theviewers. The white dominated silver screen is suddenly filled with black actorsnarrating their life.
Whoopi Goldberg who enacted the role of Celie, OprahWinfrey who gave life to Sophia and also Margaret Avery who took the role of Shug,were unknown to the public. But after the film’s release, they got recognised,creating a shift in the tinsel world too. Along with that, the black women viewerscould easily relate their life to the movie and were content with the portrayalof the plight of their representatives. The role of education is another aspectthat again gets diminished in the movie. When Education becomes the tool forindependence for both Celie and Nettie in the novel, the film obscures it.
Rather they are nourished by the support from other characters. Celie’s desireto learn is implicit in the film, but in the novel, we get that, Celie’s lifeitself is a field of education. She learns from every experience and mouldherself. Samuel and Corrine are other characters we strongly miss in the film.They were the only representatives of educated and philanthropist black peoplein the novel apart from Nettie. Their attempt to help and civilise the tribeOlinka is given less significance in the movie. The film almost hides Nettie’sjourney through Africa with Celie’s children.
For those who are not acquaintedwith the novel, it gives a sense of suspense at the end of the film in theirreunion. The lack of time can be treated as a validreason for the omission of the story of Samuel-Corrine and Olinka. But itdoesn’t answer the removal of lesbianism, which is explicit in the novel in therelationship of Celie and Shug. It’s through Shug, Celie realises the physical cravesof her body and the equal pleasures she deserves in a sexual act. In the movie,their sexual relationship is shown in a mute and latent manner.
However, thisitself is covered by the constant caress between the women in the talkie. Theirless expressed love in the movie accord for the readers’ reluctance to acceptthe same sex relationship as comfort from oppression. Besides a film alwayslook for reaching larger audience. So the makers follow certain social stigma,the same happened to the The Color Purpletoo.
The shift of focus on certain parts of thebook varies from the movie. While reading the book, we are brought into a dark,grim, harsh world of black domestic women. Usually we gave them a colourlesslife through our imagination. The poverty stricken Celie’s life added withmen’s attack on her, mar her life. But in the movie there is a softening ofthose cruelties towards her. There we can see a richer atmosphere.
Also thefilm The Color Purple is rich withmore colour and fun. Again, a relative number of scenes are intensified in themovie, especially the delivery scene of Celie, and Nettie’s running away fromCelie. These are represented verbally in the novel without much force. A change of medium differentiates as wellas gives them uniqueness for both film and fiction.
There are a lot of criticismsraised against the film for its unfaithfulness towards the novel. However it’sthrough the film, the book got great recognition. Not only that, the film toogot benefit from the novel’s popularity. The main difference between the film andfiction is that, the reader views the novel through his imagination andperspective while the movie gave an authentic picture, leaving no scope forimagination for the viewers.
But it doesn’t mean that movie is superior to bookor vice-versa. The only advantage of cinema is that it reaches the illiteratestoo. The Color Purple, the movie and book, won in portraying the plight ofblack women and were an eye opener to the public. Whatever the controversiesand criticisms chased them, all ended up by giving a platform for discussions ,again alighted the two artistic forms.